Thursday, 22 May 2014

Wildlife Interpretation: Creating great visitor experiences

(I am not involved with this workshop but Susan is a valued friend and trusted colleague and I reckon this is worth shaking your leaves and feathers over, so why not go along?. O, and the pictures are mine and included 'cause I like colourful blogs!)

gratuitous wildlife pic!

Wildlife Interpretation: Creating great visitor experiences
A workshop arranged by the
Association for Heritage Interpretation

Old Moor RSPB Reserve, Barnsley, S73 0YF
Tuesday 17th June 2014, 10.00am – 4.00pm

Susan Cross –  Interpretation and visitor experience developer, TellTale 
Ivan Nethercoat – Training Manager at RSPB
I said I liked colour,
I didn't promise relevance!
How do we help audiences engage with wildlife sites and have enjoyable and meaningful experiences? There can be challenges associated with interpreting wildlife that moves, disappears, changes with the seasons, and doesn’t behave how we might wish!

This workshop will consider the particular issues associated with providing interpretation at wildlife sites and highlight some interesting recent developments in the field including:
  • Visitor segmentation - and what understanding different motivations for wildlife experiences means for the interpreters.
  • Developing good practice guidelines for wildlife interpretation – an initiative by Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Investigating visitor attitudes to using smartphones to enhance their experience of nature reserves
There will also be an opportunity to hear about the role of interpretation in the RSPB and to visit the Old Moor reserve.

The workshop is designed for anyone interested in communicating with visitors at wildlife sites: interpretation professionals, countryside rangers, people engagement or education officers, site managers, etc.

The day will include presentations and activities, and provide inspiration and ideas that you can put into practice for your visitors right away. There will be opportunities to meet with, share ideas, activities and information with others who undertake similar work.

Susan Cross, the lead trainer at this workshop, is one of the best-known specialists in visitor experience and interpretation in the UK. She has spent 25 years building memorable connections between people, place, and wildlife. Her consultancy, TellTale, has advised and worked with a huge number of bodies from National Parks to the National Trust.

Venue, Cost & Enquiries
RSPB Old Moor is a wonderful wetland and centre with a wealth of birdlife. The site lies about 5 miles from Junction 36 of the M1 and 7 miles from Junction 37 of the A1(M). The railway stations of Wombwell and Bolton-on-Dearne are 2 and 3 miles away respectively, and Barnsley about 4 miles away
For more information go to

The cost of the event is £80 for AHI members and £100 for non-AHI members (including lunch and refreshments). Places are limited to 20. 

Attendance on this course is worth two points for those working towards full membership of AHI.

For bookings and enquiries contact the Association for

Heritage Interpretation at 54 Balmoral Road, Gillingham, Kent, ME7 4PG by telephone on 0560 274 7737 or by email to

The waters of the loch

The waters of the loch

Calm waves, tranquil water.
Children stand and watch the sea,
The waves sigh onto the shore.
A ship sails on a gentle sea,
A boat glides over the loch.
A deep blue sea.
Dolphins swim,
Seals splash in the water,
Bubbles blow where animals live.

Calm waves, tranquil water,
Above the seaweed that,
Waves over the sunken ship,
Where fish keep watch through the portholes.

John Dory

Calm waves, tranquil water
It all looks still,
Until you look under the
Deep sea waving,
Still mysteries 
Still waiting to be solved.

 cheerful blue whale

Calm waves, tranquil water
Gloomy dark water
Glowing green seaweed,
Tough seaweed in the deep, 
Hard to find
Pink sad starfish,
Anglerfish, mackerel and John Dory
Swim through the blue and the green and the grey


The loch grows dark and murky,
Waves thrash against the rocks
Seals pull out onto the shore,
Dolphins hide,
Orca withdraw,
Scary, scaly fish rising up from the darkness
Would make the biggest catch in the world
If anyone could net them,
A two-headed shark eats two divers
In one mouthful,
Grey sharks gather, and bull and mako
A ray ripples over the floor of the sea

a ray in preparation

The storm throws the waves at the shore,,
The spray soaks the children on the beach,
Run and hide, run and hide!
And don’t see the whales that hum and sing in the storm

Miss the monsters of the sea’s abyss

with thanks to the children and teachers of 
Badcaul and Scoraig Primary Schools 
for their imaginations, poems and wild stories!
(words and creations by the children)

Monday, 19 May 2014

Over the high hills

Over the high hills, on a dark stormy night,
Past the dead woods, where the wolves ran,
Under the bridge where the fish swim,
Through the lost glen, beyond the lost village,
There, at the end of everything, is the lost house.

Working today in Gergask Primary School produced some very strange sports for the Commonwealth Games. How short-sighted of the organisers not to include pond-diving (winners are marked on their upright posture and their feet sticking out of the water), food fights (Bronze level with pies, Silver with mushy peas, Gold with mashed potato) or pillow fights on stepping stones. They have also overlooked fence-leaping, tyre-rolling and the delights of boulder tennis

But then we got onto hopes and ambitions and dreams to be fulfilled and were sent on the journey recorded above....

Most of the time, while I have carefully planned the workshop, I feel I have no idea at all what is going on! I know I didn't get a copy of the Quest for the Red Tiger or The Stolen Princess (parts 1 or 2), but here is some boulder tennis....

and a beginning of castles, knights and naughtiness
not sure about these two....
And many thanks to the Gergask Crew (potential pirates all!) - I haven't used all your photos but thanks for all your help and enthusiasm!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

And what did the hedgehog do?

The Northern Tour begins: Linlithgow Primary School
P7 classes were building pop-up story landscapes

And what did the Hedgehogs do to try to save their bald little selves from the foxes?

learned to dig and turned into moles!
Put sticks in their ears so they wouldn't fit down a fox's throat...
got piles of stones to throw at the foxes.
...ran away very fast
 glued grass all over themselves so they were disguised
same idea but they used twigs and bark instead
covered themselves with stinging nettles but that hurt too much
wrapped themselves up in sticky-willy so the foxes couldn't eat them
ate lots of smelly plants

no hedgehogs here, but a story of how the bush-baby got big eyes!

and then at that last breakfast, what delicious dishes were the foxes planning....
hedgehog ice cream!
hedgehog cake
hedgehog pizza and sausages and chips and crisps
hedgehog milk shake
hedgehog cereal with milk and sugar
hedgehog porridge
hedgehogs on toast
hedgehog bacon with fried hedgehogs and eggs
chocolate hedgehogs

Thank you Primary 1 classes! For possibly more sensible information about hedgehogs (I am not going to guarantee the sensible bit), you might like to pursue my lovely friend Hugh's latest book: Hedgehog

And Primary 7s were building landscapes and stories

Tuesday, 13 May 2014


lists and more lists!
Heading north for 4 weeks on the road with a mixture of school workshops in the Highlands, writing time on Orkney and catching up with friends and family in between.

Getting ready 4 weeks of workshops call for some hefty packing however, trying to anticipate what might be needed and how much white card, how much black, any coloured card at all, or just be mean? How many workshops indoors, how many out? If we're outside can we use this card, or heavier, or let's just pick up sticks and lie furiously!

sort of ready for the journey!
En route to first workshops in Linlithgow (photos from that will follow), I stopped off at The Kelpies in the Helix Park in Falkirk. A monument by Andy Scott to the value of the heavy horses of the lost industries of the area, these statues are stunning. They tower, literally tower, over everything, especially when you walk right up to them and just stand there, open-mouthed, gazing up, muttering Kelpie-prayers and remembering (for me at least) not the heavy horses of the land but the ancient spirits who have haunted so many Scottish rivers and only brought  their "strength of ten" to the aid of humans when tricked and bound by silver-enchanted bridles or similar...
"Sair back and sair banes,
Frae carryin' the Laird o' Morphie's stanes
The Laird o' Morphie canna thrive
Sae lang as the Kelpie is alive"
Traditional : the Kelpie's Curse

Jim Carruth's words are used to evoke the legacy of the horses of central Scotland

Echo the great beasts that work among us
unbridled in this kingdom between canal and firth
here to harness the river
and carry each weary traveller
Bow down your strong heads to taste the water
Stretch up your long necks to face the sun
Jim Carruth (in front of The Kelpies statues)

And I am always inspired by Kelpies: their cold, dark pools and the rushing waters and the horse-Kelpie or the man-Kelpie on the riverbank enchants me!

Peat brown, tea brown
Staining mugs,
Tanning skin.
Glowing golden, rushing,
Brown with life, spilling out of the moors
Off the purple-heathered muir-burn hills.

Rushes spiked and quivering,
Moss swallowing wood and stone,
And the body that sinks in the peat-bog wallow.

Feel the cold,
Pickled branches, pickled bones,
Drowned twig fingers
To comb the weeds from my hair,
The dream of the Kelpie in a dark pool.
from my book of poems Old Stone and ancient bones 
(what do you mean, you haven't bought a copy yet?)